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Mom reunited with daughter missing for 2 1/2 months

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Posted at 4:07 PM, May 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 18:07:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- In the two-and-a-half months since Sophea was taken from her, Danielle Larsen has noticed her daughter has changed.

"So much," she said, watching the 15-month-old play. "She wasn't walking at that point... her hair is a lot longer."

In an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday, Larsen said she was overjoyed to finally have her daughter back after a frustrating back-and-forth between police and the court system that culminated in an endangered person alert for Sophea.

Police said the girl was taken by the man considered to be Sophea's father, Jamie Webb, after he assaulted Larsen back in February. Since then, Larsen had been trying to get legal help to get her daughter back, but because police considered it a "custody case," she said she was left with few options.

"It was totally awful," she told FOX 13. "All of that running around and everything is what probably made me feel like I wasn't going to get her back more than anything."

Meanwhile, she said, Webb taunted her with text messages about her daughter.

After months of going back and forth, Larsen was finally granted a writ of assistance -- a judge's order to get custody of Sophea. When Unified Police attempted to serve it on Webb, police said he fled.

It triggered an endangered person alert for Sophea. Less than 24 hours later, the girl was dropped off at a relative's home. Webb is still wanted by police for assault.

On Wednesday night, Larsen told FOX 13, Webb texted her again.

"The gist of it was, 'Glad you could make me look like crap on the news. This isn't over yet. Die slowly b----," she said, adding the text has been turned over to police.

At a news conference Wednesday, Sheriff Jim Winder credited Larsen's persistence with getting police to bring her daughter back.

"I'll applaud Danielle, she has gone through all the right steps with significant frustration," Winder said. "The system is by far, not perfect."

Larsen said the experience left her frustrated.

"I don't think it should be that difficult for a mother to claim that her child is hers," she said.

Larsen's case has already gotten the attention of Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who said something must be done to fill some of the gaps that exist between police and the courts in custody cases. Weiler said he was considering whether legislation was necessary.

"It's really egregious," he said. "I think when people find out about it, it's kind of a jaw-dropping revelation. Especially when they find out and learn she went to police and was turned away on the first day and told, 'You're on your own.'"